She was standing at the balcony.
As always, there was a sadness in Fyora for the clouds that once held her city aloft, the building blocks on which her kingdom had stood. She had loved them so, before the fall. She had spent hours watching them shimmer under the wings of faeries - her faeries - who called that cloud land their home. No more, now, instead just regret that the events that had transpired that fateful festival had ended better. She mourned not only for herself and for her kingdom, but for Xandra, who could have been great and good.
But that wasn't her concern right now.
Within the chambers where she had last held council years ago, she could hear the shuffling and folding of wings as her four guests grew impatient, waiting for a fifth to join them. It was predictable that Jhudora would be late. Some of the other faeries had flown from far to join their queen at such short notice, but it was the dark faerie, only a mile away on the Bluff, who was keeping them waiting. If Fyora knew her faeries like she thought she did, the tardy guest would offer no excuse. In some ways, Fyora had always found it somehow endearing. However, on a day like today, when urgency was necessary, when news was to be broken, the queen, too, was as anxious for Jhudora's arrival as the faeries within.
It was embarrassing, really, to do this to her queen in front of all these faeries, who ranked much higher in Fyora's mind than Jhudora, who would not have been considered, if only she had not needed a representative of the dark. She would have to apologise to her faeries later, though she already had done five minutes earlier. They would wait for their queen, but waiting for a faerie none of them had much of an acquaintance with, whom held no role as important as their own, was possibly insulting.
Psellia and Siyana were there, air and light respectively, had arrived that morning from Altador together, and sat next to one another at the large stone table. On their right was Danika, a striking earth faerie known for her ingenuity and determination. Next to her, Aethia the battle faerie, whose presence bought Fyora comfort. Perhaps it was familiarity, for she had spent a lot of time with the army general, and perhaps nostalgia for when they were friends, when Aethia first was named battle faerie - but soon, Fyora had had no time for friends, and they had fallen out of contact. It was nice to see the bright-eyed faerie once more.
Finally, Mira had meant to be with them, her space faerie, but she had written to say trouble stirred on Kreludor, and she would join the council within the next two days, after it had been sorted out.
There was a knock on the door, and Fyora bid them to enter, stepping back into her chamber. It was a large room, filling the whole top of her tower, barren but for the large stone table at its centre, where the faeries sat, and on the walls were beautiful tapestries crafted by magic, depicting the history of Neopia and Faerieland. Her favourite thing in all of her castle.
The guard, a faerie Draik, opened the door, and Jhudora entered in a whirl of green and purple, her purple cloak parachuting out around her feet like that of a dervish.
"Her majesty will forgive my lateness, won't she?" the dark faerie said, give a mock curtsey, and sly smile on her face.
"Yes, yes," Fyora replied, just glad that she could finally begin the meeting. "Take a seat, Lady Jhudora."
Jhudora strode over to the table, heeled boots clicking loudly against the marble floor, and sat herself down next to Siyana. They made quite a striking contrast, bright and yellow against Jhudora's black.
"Now we can begin." She looked at each of her faeries individually, and smiled, though it was a weak one. "The matter I wish to discuss with you today is of the utmost importance to the kingdom of Faerieland, and I would appreciate your full attention." This was mostly aimed at her tardy guest. She continued without pause.
"Of course, your majesty," chirped Psellia's soft voice, echoed by Siyana. Aethia gave a curt nod of understanding. There were never many words with her.
"I fear I have called you too late, but vanity and fear kept me from summoning you earlier." As she spoke, she strode over to one of tapestries, depicting an ancient tribe in the Mystery Isles overthrowing their leader, and ran her fingers along the rough cotton threads. "These are my flaws, and soon more will join them. I thought I had more time... but the change is coming on quicker for me than it did for my predecessor." She paused, gathering herself, and turned back to her guests, who all were looking expectantly at her. "In less than a week, my faeries, my reign will end."
She wanted to turn away now, to hide her shame, but she forced herself to keep looking at her companions. Everyone was frowning at her, confused, except for Aethia, whose mind seemed to be reeling. Always the tactician, probably trying to work out what was happening. She wouldn't have to wait long.
"How do you know?" Siyana asked quietly. "How could you know that, your majesty?"
Fyora sighed, and began to comb through her hair with her finger tips. Slowly, she picked a handful of hair out from the rest. Their brows furrowed ever deeper.
"They're brown," Jhudora said, doubt in her voice.
"Your majesty," said Psellia, shaking her head. "I don't understand."
The Queen nodded slowly. Amongst the lilac, her hair had begun to change - only strands at first, which had been easy to ignore, but now they changed in clumps.
"I'm reverting to my original form - my form before being named the new Queen Fyora and taking on this crown. I was a fire faerie, and soon my royal powers will weaken. Once they have dried up, if not before, I shall have to relinquish my crown, and return to my homeland of Moltara. I will go back to the fire, for I will have lost some of my wisdom, and the majority of my magic."
There was silence at the table, and it allowed the sounds of Faerie City below to leak into the room through the balcony.
"But your majesty..." Danika began, uncertainty on her face. "It's been years since Faerieland fell, and yet still, I say we are too weak to be without a queen - without our queen."
Their were nods of agreement around the table.
"Ah, but you will not be without a queen," she replied softly. "You will have a new queen."
"Who?" Jhudora asked without missing a beat.
"I don't know yet," the Queen sighed. "My predecessor, she was Sera before and after her reign as Fyora - all here but Aethia is too young to know, but we all become Fyora when we agree to rule - she had more time than me. There was a months of meetings, of nominations and debates before making the final decision, which named me Fyora." She looked around the council table carefully. "You shall be my council, but we will be short on time to make our decisions."
"We shall be responsible for picking the new queen?" Jhudora asked, her face unreadable.
"No, Lady Jhudora, one of you shall be the new queen."
Psellia let out a small gasp, and they all stared, almost looking suspicious of her intentions. Fyora let the news sink in for a moment before continuing.
"I think the events that caused our kingdom to fall sped up my ageing process. I should of predicted it. It was foolish of me to think there would be no long term repercussions from the petrification spell we were all subjected to." She paused, checked her guests composure. "Do you all understand?"
They nodded, even Jhudora looking pale.
"Psellia and Siyana, I request that you return from Altador, where you once made home, to return to Faerieland."
They both rose from their seats and nodded. "When we return this evening, we will make immediate arrangements for King Altador to do without us for a week," Siyana told the purple-haired faerie.
"Thank you, my faeries. A decision must be made, and I will need you all here. I will make arrangements for you all to stay in the castle until we are decided. Mira, the space faerie, will be joining us in the next few days. Her wisdom is as valuable to me as all you here, and tomorrow I will be looking for nominations for the water faerie who shall join us, for we are underrepresented here."
Fyora straighten her spine, breathed deeply.
"Do you all agree to submit your candidacy for queen, then?"
There was an echo of 'yes' around the table. She had assumed it would go this way, but fear that her good judgement might be fading had left her scared that someone would not be happy. Only Jhudora talked back, which was not completely a surprise.
"Yes, although I'm not sure I have much of a choice."
"I suppose not, but I was hopeful you would be willing." Fyora smiled weakly, laying her hands out on the table in front of them. "You are my most trusted faeries, and the transition between head of Faerieland must be seamless. I hope that you all will not disappoint me."
They nodded, but said nothing in reply.
"Very well, my ladies. I will call for you on the morrow, where we discuss this at length, and decided upon a course of action for making the decision."
"Yes, your majesty," the Earth faerie Danika agreed, gathering herself and beginning to walk towards the door. "Tomorrow, I will return when I am called for. Goodbye, Queen Fyora."
She curtsied, and knocked the heavy door to be allowed out. Siyana, Psellia and Jhudora all followed suit, Jhudora again putting little effort into her curtsies.
The Queen bid them farewell, and turned back to her battle faerie, dressed in her battle gear as always, who only rose after the door had shut behind the Lady of the Bluff.
"Are you okay, my friend?" the pink-winged faerie asked, eyes kind. That always surprised her about Aethia - she expected all of her to be hard and worn rough, but her eyes, after all the years, remained soft.
Fyora nodded. "I have to be, for the good of our kingdom, and to get through this in one piece, Aethia."
"Well, I hope we will not fail you," the battle faerie said with a small smile.
"I trust you all implicitly, and most of you have been great allies to me in the past. Whichever of you is decided upon... well, I'm optimistic I, and Faerieland, won't be let down by them. You are all strong, and I think you all would do well ruling these lands. I think I can be confident none of you will," the Queen replied. "I only regret I will not have much time to prepare you before I am forced to hand my powers over."
Aethia nodded to show understanding, but said nothing else, walking towards the door.
"Goodbye, your majesty, I will speak to you tomorrow."
She knocked, and the Draik guard opened the door for her. She slipped out into the hallway without looking back.
Fyora walked back out onto the balcony, to feel the gentle breeze rolling in from the Haunted Woods. She sighed heavily, leaning forward on her elbow to look out over the city, anxious. Her wisdom was leaving her as her powers were, and she hoped her decisions would be good ones in the run up to choosing. She was anxious, too, for Mira to arrive, for the space faerie gave great council.
She just hoped that this wasn't being done all too late.
The real reasons Fyora should be worried were things she unfortunately did not, could not, know. She couldn't know that one, two - maybe even three - of the faeries she spoke to went home that night thinking dark thoughts about their queen, who had not done enough for Faerieland when it had fallen. Faeries who knew themselves to be the best candidate there was, who could fill the shoes of queen much better than the current monarch.
Faeries who would have to think very hard about how they would be able to get into the seat of the throne against other, less worthy candidates.